AUGUSTA — Irineu B. Goncalves was so enraged after he thought he was going to be run over by a car driven by the mother of his children that he entered into a dissociative mental state, an expert at his trial testified Wednesday, meaning Goncalves was not aware of what he was doing when he allegedly told the woman he was going to kill her and then beat and strangled her until she was unconscious.

Irineu B. Goncalves Waterville Police Department photo

The testimony came on the second day of Goncalves’ trial on charges of attempted murder, domestic violence criminal threatening, and assault on an officer in connection with the June 14, 2023, incident in which he allegedly strangled his ex-girlfriend.

Dr. Peter Donnelly, a clinical psychologist with experience doing forensic evaluations who was testifying for the defense, said that Goncalves was in a “trauma response” that left him unaware of his actions when he allegedly attacked the woman.

Donnelly testified that his finding — after evaluating Goncalves, reviewing the case against him and interviewing a family member about him — was that Goncalves was in such a dissociative mental state that he could have taken on a different personality and gone into “attack mode,” and thus not been able to form intent, as required to find him guilty of the charge of attempted murder.

During an argument with the woman, Goncalves, 35, of Revere, Massachusetts, thought that she had moved her car in a way that put him at risk of being run over, Donnelly said, and it triggered a trauma response in him, in which he reacted by fighting her.

“Being in a dissociative state would severely impact someone’s ability to be consciously aware of what they’re doing,” Donnelly testified Wednesday. He said that state was triggered “when he felt he was going to be run over. And became enraged and went into trauma response. For many people, it’s fight, flight, or freeze. For him it was fight.”


Prosecutor Shannon Flaherty, an assistant district attorney, questioned Donnelly, asking him whether his hypothesis stood despite testimony that indicated Goncalves had threatened the victim he was going to kill her before the alleged attack, that he told an eyewitness who tried to intervene in the attack he had a gun and would kill the eyewitness and the woman, and that Goncalves had also been charged with threatening to kill the woman before, in Massachusetts.

Donnelly responded that none of that changed his opinion.

Goncalves’ attorney, Roger Brunelle, said the domestic violence charges in Massachusetts against his client were dismissed.

Goncalves also allegedly bit, punched and tried to take the gun of a Waterville police officer who he fought with after being pulled off the woman, an officer testified previously.

Prosecution witness Kyle Cooney of Connecticut, who was staying at the Holiday Inn Express on business, testified he was coming back from dinner on June 14, 2023, and arrived at the hotel parking lot to see a man, Goncalves, on top of a woman in a car, beating her.

Cooney said the woman was screaming, and when she saw him come around the corner in his car she said, “Help me, please help me, he’s going to kill me!”


He jumped out of his car and called 911, by which time, Cooney said, the woman was out of the car and in the parking lot, again with the man on top of her, attacking her.

Cooney said he ran over to the couple, and the woman appeared to be unconscious. He told the man to stop what he was doing and get off of the woman.

“He looked at me and said, ‘I have a gun, and I’m going to kill you, and then I’m going to kill her,'” Cooney said on the witness stand.

Asked by Flaherty what he did then, Cooney replied, “I backed off. I didn’t want to be shot.”

Under cross-examination from Brunelle, Cooney acknowledged he did not see a gun, but added that Goncalves was wearing a hoodie with pockets, so he didn’t know if he had a gun or not.

Police testified Tuesday, the first day of the trial, they did not find a gun on Goncalves, though they did find a knife in his backpack.


The woman testified Tuesday that before she lost consciousness with the hands of Goncalves around her neck, she thought he was going to kill her and she prayed to God for help.

The woman is not being named because the Kennebec Journal does not identify victims of alleged domestic violence without their permission.

The prosecution and defense rested Wednesday, and closing arguments are expected to take place Thursday afternoon.

Goncalves worked as a trucker whose route took him to Maine, where he would stay in Waterville. Brunelle said the incident took place after the woman had finished playing in a pickup soccer game at Colby College and saw Goncalves walking alongside the road. She stopped to ask what he was doing and gave him a ride back to his hotel, the Holiday Inn Express on Main Street in Waterville, where they had a disagreement.

Brunelle said the woman asked Goncalves to get out of the car and he did, and she then backed her car into him, although he was not injured.

The woman, who said she did not, and would not, drive her car into Goncalves, said she suffered a broken nose, split lips and bruising on her face, neck and arm in the attack, including a thumb-sized bruise on her neck. Her skin was rubbed off part of her throat, and she suffered broken blood vessels in her eyes, she said, due to the pressure he applied while strangling her.


She said she was in pain for months and still suffers vertigo from the attack.

The trial started Tuesday with Goncalves pleading guilty to two of the charges against him, in an apparent plea deal in which state prosecutors agreed to dismiss two other charges. He pleaded guilty to a Class B charge of aggravated assault, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and the lesser charge of violating condition of release. Separate charges of domestic violence aggravated assault and domestic violence terrorizing were also dismissed.

That left the most serious charge —  the Class A offense of attempted murder, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine — as well as domestic violence criminal threatening and assault on an officer, to be the remaining counts to go to trial.

The proceeding is a bench trial, meaning that instead of a jury, the case will be decided by Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy.

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